Tuesday, January 27, 2009

LL.B. or J.D. – Which is better?

Following the emerging trend of Canadian law schools making a switch from the LL.B. to J.D. degree designations the York University’s Senate has approved a change in Osgoode Hall Law School’s law degree designation from Bachelor of Laws (LLB) to Juris Doctor (JD).

According to a York University press release, the new designation will come into effect with graduating class of 2009 and will also apply retroactively to alumni who choose to convert their degree. Students can however opt out of the change and receive an LLB rather than a JD.

The primary reason for the switch appears to be a feeling amongst the student community that the move will make the degrees more attractive in the international legal marketplace. However experts believe that the switch may not make any difference on international hiring as the firms who hire internationally are global firms who hire graduates from different countries, and regardless of the degree designation they know just what they're getting.

Whether the switch will make a difference in international marketability or not the new designation is at least easier to say and remember. Not many people know what LL. B. actually stands for.

- Shashi K. Raina, Toronto

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Antiques and the Courts’ Use of Extraordinary Remedies

Legally speaking . . .

A frustrating aspect of the law is its occasional unfairness to those who lead their lives honestly. Consumers and business owners often lament that the unscrupulous, often with deep pockets, somehow figure out how to avoid paying the piper, despite laudable efforts of our legislators, courts and judges. But our legal system does have mechanisms to make justice prevail and catch the unsavory. And cases involving antiques illustrate how it can be done, by availing ourselves of extraordinary remedies.

Courts were originally created to provide financial compensation for perpetrated wrongs. But that didn’t always result in justice. So centuries ago in England a second level of court developed, known as the court of equity. Its job was to apply established concepts of law, but using principles of ethics and fairness, combined with good common sense and judgment … not always an easy task. In fact Charles Dickens’ Bleak House parodied the excessive time and expense associated with the Court of Chancery (the court hearing equity lawsuits) in 19th century England.

The most common extraordinary remedy, originally used in the English courts of equity, is the injunction. An injunction either requires that someone do something, or not do something. It’s customized to a specific set of facts and in general will be granted only where monetary damages are inadequate. It can be granted on a temporary basis, very quickly, and even without advance notice to the person it affects.


The British Columbia case of Kay Minge v. J.W. Oak Furniture Imports Ltd. and William Heinhuis illustrates how this extraordinary remedy is particularly suited to claims involving antiques. Kay Minge was an antique automobile collector, residing in Norway. He agreed to purchase a 1932 Chrysler Imperial Le Baron Roadster for $124,800 (USD) from the defendants. The defendants admitted that Mr. Minge paid that amount within about ten days, but they refused to deliver the car. They said the contract was for the Le Baron and a 1976 John Deere Model 450 Tractor for an additional $50,000; that part of the sum was for the Le Baron, and part for the tractor; and that the agreement was that the vehicles wouldn’t be delivered until payment had been received in full for both. The plaintiff sued to get the Le Baron, and the defendants countersued for the balance.

On the face of that evidence, the defendants’ case seemed suspect: Mr. Heinhuis admitted that there was a deal for $124,800, and that the money had been paid … but part of that money was for the tractor sale and therefore neither vehicle had been paid for in full, all rather curious. However, there was fax and other evidence lending some credence to his position.

The proceeding was a motion brought by Mr. Minge, before trial, requesting interim delivery of the car pending trial. There was only affidavit evidence, so the Master of The Court didn’t hear oral testimony, note the demeanor of the witnesses, and examine all of the documents.

Just as with any rare antique or piece of art where ownership is in dispute, if the item remains with the vendor pending trial he can dispose of it, or it could be stolen or destroyed by fire. It wouldn’t be enough for Mr. Minge to eventually get his money back, because the vehicle was one-of-a-kind, and money wouldn’t be adequate compensation for the deal not coming to fruition.

The Master carefully considered the range of remedies available, deciding:
1) Provided the plaintiff pay into court money as security for the defendants’ counterclaim (i.e. the tractor payment), they shall release the Le Baron to Mr. Minge; should they retain the tractor they shall keep it insured; and, pending delivery of the car to Mr. Minge they shall not expose it to inclement weather and keep it insured.
2) If the plaintiff elects to not pay the additional sum of money into court as security, the defendants shall retain both vehicles, insured and protected from inclement weather.
In both instances, the interim order provided for inspection by the other side and proof of insurance coverage.

Mr. Minge gets his vintage vehicle, at his option either in his possession immediately or protected for him pending trial, and the defendants’ rights are preserved should they wish to pursue their counterclaim for sale of the tractor. In addition, the order could be registered with provincial government ministries, to prevent the defendants from mortgaging or disposing of the Le Baron before trial.


Earlier this year a lawsuit was brought before the Ontario Superior Court involving a collection of 14 classic cars valued at $350,000 (CDN), in more dire circumstances. The saga began with a franchise known as O.K. Tire Stores suing former licensee James McLaughlin Jr. and his corporation, Ace Tire. In May, 2007, O.K. Tire obtained a temporary injunction restraining the defendants from using the plaintiff’s trade marks and trade name. In September, a judgment made the injunction permanent and ordered McLaughlin and his company to pay damages for an outstanding debt, passing off, and costs, totaling $199,830.25.

In February of this year, O.K. Tire commenced a second proceeding, O.K. Tire Stores Inc. v. McLaughlin, suing McLaughlin, Ace Tire, and four members of the McLaughlin family. Of the total owing, O.K. Tire had only recovered $1,674.71, through garnishment.

In the new proceeding, the plaintiff alleged that in 2004, McLaughlin submitted a credit application, representing that he owned the home in which he resided, the classic car collection, and more, and that his net worth was $641,700. After obtaining the judgment, O.K. Tire learned, amongst other things, that the home had been transferred into the name of Charlotte Murphy McLaughlin and James McLaughlin Sr. and that 9 motor vehicles had been transferred to McLaughlin’s wife, Debra. In addition, while McLaughlin had stated that he had “walked away” from the Ace Tire business, the plaintiff learned that the Ace Tire business location was being operated by McLaughlin’s brother, Martin.

O.K. Tire asked a judge, without giving notice to the defendants, to require that the McLaughlins preserve their assets and allow the plaintiff to put liens (certificates of pending litigation) on real estate, including the home. The basic allegation was that McLaughlin and his family had wrongfully taken steps including transferring property, with the intention of avoiding paying O.K. Tire. A concern was that the if the defendants knew that O.K. Tire was going to ask the court for such an order, it would give them time to dispose of everything, before a court order was made.

The judge’s order, made February 14, 2008, without the defendants knowing that the plaintiff had even started the new proceeding, included these terms, pending further court order:
1) The defendants or anyone acting on their behalf are restrained from directly or directly taking any steps to sell, transfer or otherwise deal with the vehicles and shall preserve and maintain insurance on them;
2) The defendants are to within ten days provide the plaintiff with a sworn statement stating the location of the vehicles, and by not doing so they will be in contempt of court and may be liable to be imprisoned or fined;
3) The plaintiff is granted permission to but a lien on the two pieces of real estate in issue in the case, including the home;
4) Any interested party can apply to amend the order;
5) The plaintiff is required to serve the order and the court proceeding (claim) as soon as possible.

Two points are noteworthy: Firstly, none of these allegations (which do not constitute all those which were made) have been proven to be true at a trial, and in fact they represent only a summary of the plaintiff’s version of the facts. Secondly, as of June, 2008, according to the lawyer representing the plaintiff, the plaintiff and the defendants were is settlement negotiations, and no further court order had been made.

The plaintiff didn’t want Mr. Mclaughlin’s antique cars or his home. All he wanted was that the debt ordered by the court to be paid, be satisfied. On the face of the allegations it appeared that McLaughlin, with the help of his family, was trying to arranged his affairs to avoid paying the debt, if not fraudulently then certainly by taking illegal steps. You can sell or dispose of property, as long as your motivation is not to defeat another’s claim.


An injunction is an extraordinary remedy available to Canadian courts today, historically rooted in the British court of equity, designed to meet specific, often urgent, fact situations. It can be used to protect the rights of an antique collector, to ultimately acquire a unique piece, where money would be inadequate compensation. It can be granted on a temporary basis, fast and without notice to the people it affects, where there’s a danger of irreparable harm to the innocent. Even when the gate has been closed after the horse has left the barn, justice can still prevail.

- Alvin Starkman M.A., LL.B., Oaxaca

Alvin Starkman is a member of The Law Society of Upper Canada. However, this article is not intended to be and should not be relied upon as constituting legal advice or opinion. Alvin and Arlene, former Toronto residents and collectors of Canadiana, moved to Mexico in 2004. They operate Casa Machaya Oaxaca Bed & Breakfast - http://www.oaxacadream.com


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Saturday, January 24, 2009

On Paternity, Polygamy, Palimony and Parental Alienation in Canada

Canada's press has been having a field day with four sensational cases that have been winding their way through the nation's courts.

Dealing with fundamental questions at the very root of our values around marriage, children and family, these cases have captured the public's collective imagination - and ire -for very good reason.

The questions they pose are clearly lightning rods for debate:

  • How do we adjudicate the child support claims of a woman who deceived her husband for sixteen years about the paternity of the family's twin children?

  • What can be done for the children of a marriage who have become so alienated from their father due to their custodial mother's intensive brainwashing that they now refuse any contact with him?

  • Should there be any entitlement to support or family property sharing in Quebec when a long-term common-law relationship breaks down?

  • And on the very edge, what shall we now do with polygamy, given that the law has evolved to become considerably more elastic its definitional approach to marriage?
Biological Paternity Isn't Determinative - Cornelio v. Cornelio

In a January 7, 2009 decision of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice in Cornelio v. Cornelio, Madame Justice Katherine van Rensburg refused to terminate a man's child support payments for sixteen-year-old twins, after DNA testing determined that he was not their biological father.

In her ruling, Madame Justice van Rensburg framed the issues as follows:

[1] The issue in this long motion is whether the respondent’s child support obligations for two children, who are 16 year old twins, should terminate, now that DNA testing has confirmed that he is not their biological father. The respondent is also seeking repayment of the child support that he paid to the applicant for the twins from the date of separation in 1998, or at least from the date of a consent order of May 2, 2002 when the parties agreed to joint custody and to child support for the three children.
After an exhaustive review of the circumstances under which the law requires payment of child support by parental figures who have been in loco parentis - in the stead of a parent - with their non-biological children, the Court required the continuation of child support payments to the mother.

The Court, while noting the mother's blatant deception about paternity, also adopted the reasoning in "another line of cases... that recognizes that there is no duty on a spouse to disclose an extramarital affair."

The decision, which received much sensational press and talk-radio attention in Toronto, was reported in the Toronto Star:

In van Rensburg's ruling, the fact that Pasqualino Cornelio had acted as the twins' father for so long was key to her decision.

"The relationship that developed from the time of their birth was the natural relationship between a parent and his children," she said. "The fact of that relationship – even if it has now become strained – is sufficient to require Mr. Cornelio to continue to contribute toward the children's material needs."

At the root of this decision is the reality that the former husband was the only father figure the children had ever known. He had adopted the role of their father throughout the marriage.

And even though his parental involvement resulted from the mother's blatant fraud, the law has long held that child support obligations do indeed flow once an individual puts himself or herself in the day-to-day role of a parental figure.

The outcome in this case, therefore, is not terribly surprising As Madame Justice van Rensburg commented in her ruling:
....It is consistent with the decision of the Supreme Court of Canada in Chartier that focuses on the reality of the relationship and the best interests of the child in determining whether a parental role has been assumed and whether child support should be paid. Further, and on the authority of the F.S. line of cases, while the failure of Ms. Cornelio to disclose to her husband the fact that she had an extramarital affair and that the twins might not be his biological children may well have been a moral wrong against Mr. Cornelio, it is a wrong that does not afford him a legal remedy to recover child support he has already paid, and that does not permit him to stop paying child support.

[23] The right to child support is the right of a child, and is independent of a parent’s own conduct, whether it be delay in pursuing support, an attempt to contract out of support, or the failure to disclose an extramarital affair that may have led to the conception of the child. Mr. Cornelio was the only father the twins knew during the course of the marriage; the relationship that developed from the time of their birth was the natural relationship between a parent and his children. The fact of that relationship, which continued for six years before separation and then for 10 years after separation, even if it has now become strained, is sufficient to require Mr. Cornelio to continue to contribute toward the children’s material needs.

[24] Even if this matter were approached on the basis of fairness to the respondent, I would conclude that his child support obligations toward the twins continues notwithstanding that he is not their biological father. By his own admission, Mr. Cornelio knew at the time of separation that his wife had an extramarital affair with “Tony” and he developed suspicions that she had known Tony during the marriage and that he might be the father of all three of their children. Notwithstanding these suspicions, Mr. Cornelio sought joint custody of all three children and entered into a consent order that provided for his ongoing and important involvement in their lives and for the provision of child support. It was not until access was interrupted and Ms. Cornelio commenced these proceedings seeking increased child support that the respondent began pursuing this issue. As Mendes da Costa U.F.C.J. noted in Spring, a support obligation to a child created by one’s conduct during the marriage cannot be cast aside after separation. I can only conclude that this motion by Mr. Cornelio is a response to the current conflict with the applicant and his unfortunate alienation from the children, which may well be temporary.

Parental Alienation has Consequences - AGL and KBD

Similarly, a strongly-worded January 16, 2009 decision of the Ontario Superior Court Justice in A.G.L. v. K.B.D., 2009 CanLII 943 (ON S.C.), was equally predictable on any reading of the facts.

Madam Justice Faye McWatt's decision documents a horrific, fourteen year history of toxic parental alienation by the mother of three girls, aged 9, 11 and 14. The mother was clearly determined to terminate their relationship with their father, a surgeon who, in spite of the mother's concerns, had been repeatedly found by various experts to possess good parental ability.

All three children were adamant in their stated wishes to remain with their mother.

As reported in the Globe and Mail:

"It is now time for his and the children's fates to be free from [the mother's] control," Madam Justice Faye McWatt of the Ontario Superior Court of Justice said in her ruling. "She has shown that she cannot be entrusted with it."

The judge said the children had become so poisoned toward their father by the mother's "emotional abuse" that they had lost the capacity to make independent decisions about interacting with him.

... K.D. [the mother] also refused repeatedly to comply with court orders granting A.L. visitation rights, and invented excuses to thwart them.

Judge McWatt said a psychologist who assessed the family noted that K.D. was obsessive about observing the children when they were with their father, retained an unreasoning belief that he would harm them, and "overprotected the three children to the point of infantilizing all of them.

"Eventually, he was not allowed to see or speak to the children - but was left shouting good night to them through a door of K.D.'s home," Judge McWatt added. "Most times, he was not aware whether they were in the house. He did this for up to two years during this period."

In a stunningly blunt rebuke to the children's mother, the Court ordered that the three children girls be removed from their mother's care.

Madame Justice McWatt also required that they be sent for therapeutic treatment to a "Family Workshop for Alienated Children program," created by Dr. Randy Rand, at the mother's expense.

(Note the Globe's loaded characterization of the therapy programme as a "parental alienation centre for deprogramming." )

Finally, Madame Justice McWatt placed the children in their father's permanent custody - with contact with their mother essentially prohibited.

A brief excerpt from Madame Justice McWatt ruling follows:

[151] The three children of the marriage have been alienated from the Applicant over a long period because K. D. is unable to accept that it is in the best interests of the children to have a relationship with their father. She has been given several opportunities to change her behaviour over many years, and refuses to do so. I find that her unrelenting behaviour toward the children is tantamount to emotional abuse as described by Dr. Fidler. The views and preferences of the two older children are not their own. And for the children to have any further contact with the Respondent, significant therapeutic intervention is necessary.

[152] It is remarkable that A. L. has not given-in to the Respondent’s persistence in keeping his children from him over the last fourteen years and simply gone on with his life without the children as, no doubt, many other parents in the same situation would have and, indeed, have done. It is now time for his and the children’s fates to be free from K. D’s control. She has shown that she cannot be entrusted with it.

[153] The best interests of these children require an order for A. L. to have sole custody of them...

The court also issued a restraining Order, preventing the mother from having contact with the children, pending a subsequent review of the family's progress:

Pursuant to section 17(3) of the Divorce Act and section 35 of the Children’s Law Reform Act, and subject to paragraph 2 herein, the Respondent [mother] is not to harass, annoy or molest, or attend within 300 meters of, or have any contact with the Applicant [father]or the children. She is not to have any contact, direct or indirect, or cause any contact, direct or indirect, with the children or with the Applicant pending review of this matter, as set out below, and this Order of restraint of contact by the Respondent with the children applies to all places where the children attend, including, without limiting the generality of same, the Applicant’s home, the children’s schools, the children’s church or place of extracurricular activities.
What can we take from these two cases?

Fatherhood Matters

I'd suggest that while these cases break very little new legal ground, they highlight one of the fundamental values of Canada's current family law regime - nothing trumps what is best for the children. Period.

Especially the petty and not-so-petty squabbles of their parents.

All things being equal, Canadian law recognizes that children need the care, guidance and material support of both of their parents. Parents cannot legally walk away from that responsibility, not can they lawfully be pushed away.

At the risk of over-generalization, it is fair to say that poor behaviour and enmity of former spouses toward each other has become increasingly irrelevant in Canada's family courts over the last four decades. A line in the sand, however, is drawn at the point former spouses' misconduct toward each other detrimentally impacts the welfare of children.

These two decisions, jointly considered, do much to dispel the myth of Canadian family courts' bias in favour of women. But even if these cases have been rightly decided, many will harbour a lingering feeling that something is just not right about them.

At first glance, wrenching three girls - against their will - from the continuity of their mother's care, after the mother has psychologically ripped them away from their father, seems as much a retributive social experiment as a solution.

And providing no recourse to a man who has been duped to believe he has fathered a family's children - while imposing a decades-long financial burden upon him - hardly fulfils our quest for higher justice.

These two cases make us yearn for the kind of custom-made solutions that don't easily emerge in a family law system that is increasingly dominated by standardized tables, doctrines, guidelines and timetables:
  • A child support Order tailored to benefit the children, but not their mother - e.g. - the father makes certain expense payments directly to third parties in lieu of support, rather than paying support to the mother.

  • A transfer of custody that would not risk emotionally harm to the children by tearing them wholly from contact with their mother against their will. I have no crystal ball, but it would be no surprise to me if the eldest daughter, in particular, will simply count the days until she reaches age 16 and return to her mother's care thereafter - I've seen it happen.
Paradoxically, both cases are also a predictable byproduct of our anachronistic resort to adversarial justice as a means of sorting our the legal consequences of family breakdown.

Would either case have taken these unfortunate turns if our family laws featured a presumption of joint custody upon relationship breakdown and, absent emergency, required a mandatory period of intensive family law mediation before permitting litigation?

Palimony, Non?

The ongoing Quebec palimony case, which we first reported last March, provides a surprising glimpse of the disparity between the provinces in basic, family law policy.

While the interests of married people are determined federally through the Divorce Act and related legislation, the provinces retain jurisdiction over unmarried couples.

Unmarried common-law partners in Ontario have had statutory spousal support entitlements after three years of cohabitation since 1978, when the then-revolutionary Family Law Reform Act was enacted.

Common law spouses in Quebec are afforded no such protections. It is at least somewhat surprising, then, that it has taken until 2009 for the constitutionality of this anomaly to be tested.

The National Post reports on the case, now before the Quebec Superior Court:

A Quebec billionaire at the centre of a messy and public airing of his 10-year relationship with a young Brazilian summed up yesterday why he never married her, despite having three children together.

"It's not my cup of tea," the man, who can't be identified under provincial law, told a packed Quebec Superior Court room. His former common-law wife has launched a constitutional challenge to Quebec's unique-in-Canada family law to receive financial support, in a case that could affect the rights of the one million common-law couples in the province...

The woman's lawyers, who expect the case to go to Canada's top court, want couples in de facto unions for three years without children or one year with children treated the same as people who are married, just as in all other provinces.

The woman is asking for $56,000 a month plus a onetime payment of $50-million -- a figure she says reflects the kind of spending power she had when the two were together.

But the man, now living with a model to whom he is not married but with whom he has two children, says he gives the three children by his former lover ample support... He pays for the nannies, chauffeur, cleaning lady and cook, as well as all the children's school fees. He gives the woman $35,000 a month in child support.

Montreal blogger Coolopolis takes a more caustic look at the case in Common lawlessness in Quebec - the land without wedding rings:

Quebec has a lot of such unmarried couples. According to Statscan figures from 2005, 34.6 of women in Quebec are living in common law relationships.

Quebec's rate of couples living together out of wedlock is almost triple the rate in the rest of Canada, where only 13.4 percent of women are in unmarried cohabitation fake-marriage situations. Other countries are all far lower than Quebec. Britain, which studies show is the most sexually active country in Europe sees only 15.5 percent of couples in common law relationships.

... Quebec has Civil Law, the Napoloenic Code, as it's known. We do not practice Common Law here, so Common Law relationships is a misnomer. There's no such thing as a common law relationship, so there's no compensation for women splitting up from such a relationship.

So living in Quebec is a great deal for rich men. Sure, they'll be on the hook for child support payments but beyond that it's zilch.

I'm still scratching my head at why (and how) Quebec's provincial government has avoided this issue for so long.

While the actual legal arguments to be advanced have not been featured in any of the press coverage to date, I expect the parties' positions will focus of the conflict between the Constitution's separation of provicial and federal powers and the Charter's Section 15 guarantee of "equal protection and equal benefit of the law without discrimination... based on national or ethnic origin, sex..."

And for those who are interested, Ann-France Goldwater, the lawyer for the woman claiming support in this case, made a cameo appearance in the comments section of our first blog post on this case.

The Polygamists' Rationale - Everybody else is doing it...

Finally, with criminal charges pending against a British Columbia man with 19 wives, polygamy will now have its Canadian test of constitutionality.

As the Globe and Mail reported on January 21, 2009:

Same-sex marriage, they said, would be the slippery slope to polygamy.
Just a few short years after Canadians engaged in a caustic debate over whether two men, or two women, should be allowed to marry, the prognosticators will find out if they are vindicated - however unhappily.

The lawyer for Winston Blackmore, the man with 19 wives in the B.C. religious community of Bountiful who is to appear in court today on polygamy charges, says he will cite Canada's gay-marriage laws as part of his defence.

It's an argument that people on both sides of the same-sex marriage fight were expecting: If same-sex marriage is justified under Charter rights to equality, then polygamy is justified under the Charter's protection of religious freedom.

The article continues with discussion of another BC polygamy charge, now pending:

Salt Lake City lawyer Rodney Parker, who has represented members of the polygamous religious community in the United States, said yesterday the legalization of gay marriage in Canada will allow the court to focus directly on the defendants' constitutional rights in a way that U.S. courts could not.

With the Supreme Court of Canada decision legalizing gay marriage, Canada is "further down the path" than the U.S. on marriage issues, he said.

"It is a defence we've argued for in the states," Mr. Parker said in a phone interview from his office. The arguments, however, were ineffective because U.S. prosecutors went after sexual crimes, not polygamy. "The cases we had down here so far involved minors. Oler's case does not involve a minor."

Jim Oler, a rival leader from a different faction within the religious community in B.C., has also been charged with polygamy, for allegedly having two wives. Mr. Oler is aligned with those in the U.S. who have been represented by Mr. Parker. The Salt Lake City lawyer was the spokesman for the church after the raid last spring on the group's Yearning for Zion compound in Texas.

Marriage By the Numbers

Frankly, I don't think polygamy's day of recognition has come to Canada, yet.

But I do confess that I have at least an academic fascination with the legal arguments ahead.

The argument will be that where religious beliefs legitimately permit or even mandate such polygamous marriages, what then, can be the legal rationale for forbiding them in the face of the Charter?

Beyond that, doesn't the law, in theory, already provide some protection to polygmous spouses?

For example, if a person has dozen common-law spouses, wouldn't each of them have a support claim against the primary other - or perhaps all of the others - upon separation, if the cohabitation had a duration of at least three years.

(Except in Quebec, of course).

So there you have it. It's only January, but 2009 is shaping up as a year in which family law courts will be addressing a number of cutting-edge issues that will raise a few eyebrows.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto



A few of our comments have noted support awards to polygamous spouses by provincial courts in Saskatchewan. They've also directed my attention to the Criminal Code provision on polygamy:

293. (1) Every one who
(a) practises or enters into or in any manner agrees or consents to practise or enter into
(i) any form of polygamy, or
(ii) any kind of conjugal union with more than one person at the same time, whether or not it is by law recognized as a binding form of marriage, or
(b) celebrates, assists or is a party to a rite, ceremony, contract or consent that purports to sanction a relationship mentioned in subparagraph (a)(i) or (ii),
is guilty of an indictable offence and liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding five years.

The text above has been amended accordingly.

Law is Cool has an interesting podcast on this topic here.


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Law Blog Award Notes

In yet another "top legal blog" listing, Avvo Blog is now posting Alexa's traffic rankings for the top 300 law blogs.

Among Canada's offerings, our own Wise Law Blog comes in at a not-too-shabby #104. Our friends at Law is Cool are impressive at #82, all as of today's rankings.

And on a related topic (from the better late than never department), the selections for the 2008 CLawBie Awards are up, and we are glad to see the notable quality of the blogs that have been highlighted, many of which are featured daily at our sister site, Wise Law Reader.

Congratulations to this years award recipients, and to Steve Matthews for once again quarterbacking this crowning event of the Canadian law blogger year. Next year, I'm thinking a fancy CLawBie dinner with champagne and tuxedos and evening gowns would be nice ...

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

Update: February 5, 2009

I note that the good folks at Slaw now appear as the heavyweight Canadian representative on  Alexa's law blog traffic rank listing. Today Slaw is listed at number 32.  

Well deserved. 

For the statistically-inclined, another ranking service is found at Justia's BlawgSearch. Justia's daily Canadian law blog "popularity" listings are here.  Weekly, monthly and "all time" rankings are also available at the site. 

The site's design has been updated, and now includes RSS headline feeds of recent (but not totally up-to-date) blog posts from the sites listed.  


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Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Video: President Obama's Inaugural Address

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Video: January 20, 2009 - Inauguration Day

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Inauguration Day - The Obama Era Begins

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Monday, January 19, 2009

Are You With Us, Or With the Torturers?

Glenn Greenwald presents another compelling argument today at Salon that the 1988 Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment legally obligates the Obama administration to prosecute Bush administration officials who authorized or participated in the use of torture:

Article 2

1. Each State Party shall take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture in any territory under its jurisdiction.

2. No exceptional circumstances whatsoever, whether a state of war or a threat or war, internal political instability or any other public emergency, may be invoked as a justification of torture.

3. An order from a superior officer or a public authority may not be invoked as a justification of torture. . . .

Article 4

1. Each State Party shall ensure that all acts of torture are offences under its criminal law. The same shall apply to an attempt to commit torture and to an act by any person which constitutes complicity or participation in torture..

Greenwald urges that, based on its treaty obligations, the U.S. has no prosecutorial discretion and must, as a matter of law, proceed to bring those who authorized torture to justice.

In the waning days of this Administration, its highest officials, including the President and Vice President themselves, have virtually lined up to preemptively - and unrepentently - acknowledge their roles in the direct authorization of so-called "enhanced interrogation methods."

It seems pretty clear this parade of admissions was coordinated in a parting effort to define the parameters of the debate that may follow. It may or may not work, particularly if House Speaker Nancy Pelosi has her way on investigations.

Once the dust settles, I'd suggest that America will come to acknowledge that its standing in the world - and in its own eyes - will largely be determined by how it addresses the Bush legacy of torture.

As new information emerges as to the unimagined extent of these practises - and it will - the U.S. will have to decide a simple question that may well define the nation for generations to come:

Are you with us, or with the torturers?

In the meanwhile, the good news is that Bush, Cheney and their cronies appear to be already gone.

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

UPDATE - January 20, 2009

See Keith Olberman's Special Comment on this topic: They're guilty of this, Mr. President-Elect. They're guilty as sin

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Friday, January 09, 2009

The Girl Who Silenced the World at the United Nations

This one comes via our own Rachel Spence:

- Garry J. Wise, Toronto

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Monday, January 05, 2009


Now that we're back after a bit of a blog break, it'll probably take a a few days to ramp up to our usual posting pace.  

I'll begin this year's offerings simply, then, with a happy new year to all.  

I've got quite a few topics saved up for attention in the days and weeks ahead, so stay tuned.

Best wishes for 2009.